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News & Events > School News > A Fabulous 150th Anniversary Founders' Day

A Fabulous 150th Anniversary Founders' Day

There was much excitement on Saturday 1st July as the whole school gathered to celebrate a fabulous 150th Anniversary Founders' Day together. 
24 Jul 2023
Written by Hannah Castle
School News

There was much excitement on Saturday 1st July as the whole school gathered to celebrate a fabulous 150th Anniversary Founders’ Day together.

The day started with the Commemoration Service at St Mary’s Church, Calne. The Vicar of the Parish, Reverend Teresa Michaux, welcomed everyone on what was her first St Mary’s Commemoration Service and warmly handed proceedings over to the School Chaplain, Reverend Jonathan Beech who also extended his welcome to all, particularly the Guest Speakers for the day, Reverend (Group Captain) Ruth Hake and St Mary’s alumna, Roya Nikkhah.

The Service was a joyous event, featuring lovely performances by the Chamber Choir (Ubi Caritas by Ola Gjeilo), Junior Concert (All Things Pass by Bob Chilcott) and a beautiful rendition of Cor Jesu Sacratissimum by the Chamber Choir featuring soloist Tessa (UVI). Readings from the Head of Chapel, Phoebe, Deputy Heads Girls, Anna and Hannah, and Head Girl, Sienna, were also poignant. Head, Dr Felicia Kirk, delivered the Founders’ Day prayer, remembering those who founded the school. The Address by the Reverend (Group Captain) Ruth Hake was inspiring and empowering on many fronts as she used the reading of Jeremiah 1: 4-10, as an example for the students to believe in themselves, although they are young, reminding them that they are capable and should not set limits on themselves.

Following the Commemoration Service, everyone returned to St Mary’s for picnics with their families and friends. For the first time, the new Pavilion was used as an outdoor music venue for a series of performances, which saw many of our Leavers (Tessa, Ashley, Florence) perform as soloists as well as the String Sinfonia, Chamber Trio, Strictly Strings and the Winner of the Songwriting Competition 2023 (Mia, UV). 

Located by the Pavilion was ‘Grace’, the new bronze horse sculpture created in celebration of St Mary’s 150th anniversary by Sophie (LV). Initially inspired by the Cherhill White Horse, Sophie’s clay maquette was created as part of a workshop led by our Art Scholars under the guidance of celebrated equine sculptor, Judy Boyt, and Director of Art, Mrs Kimberley Pallot, and was kindly sponsored by Calne Girls’ Association and The Arts Society Wessex. ‘Grace’ was unveiled at a special outdoor Chapel held earlier in the week, and it was lovely to see it nestled in the garden in its new home.

The whole school community was also able to view the outstanding Founders’ Day Art Exhibition, showcasing the school’s wonderfully talented pupils. Over 100 pieces were on show throughout the school, featuring the best examples of art created in the past academic year. Special mention must go to our Junior Artists, whose work was selected for Young Art, London and is now on display in the Head’s Reception and the UIV Legacy Print Project, created with our departing Artist in Residence, Miss Chloe Barnes, displayed along Long Passage.

Although a rain shower threatened to prevent the enjoyment of families having their picnics, the rain soon passed and everyone thoroughly enjoyed getting together and catching up with friends to share this special time together, with many visiting the PGSM’s popular Pimm’s tent prior to the Prizegiving.

It was soon time for everyone to gather in the Main Marquee for the Prizegiving Ceremony, which was opened by Chair of Governors, Mr Svante Adde, who delivered words of welcome to everyone and remarked that this was the first full academic year that had not experience any Covid-related restrictions. He stressed how proud the school is of the 2023 Leavers, and thanked all the staff, Dr Kirk and the Leadership Team for their dedication, and invited Dr Kirk to the podium.

Dr Kirk added her words of welcome to those of Mr Adde and expressed her thanks to the Reverend Ruth Hake for her excellent Address and inspirational words of encouragement to foster self-belief in our young women, before welcoming the Guest Speaker for the Prizegiving, Roya Nikkah, who is Royal Editor for The Sunday Times and a leading Royal presenter, commentator and broadcaster for major television and radio networks and one of our distinguished alumnae.

She then thanked the whole team involved in the huge build up and work involved in Founders’ Day, with special mention to the Music and Art Departments, the premises, grounds, catering and housekeeping teams, and all the staff and pupils who put so much time and effort into preparing for this memorable day.

Dr Kirk thanked and bid farewell to those staff who are moving on to new positions for their huge contribution to the school. She remarked how lucky the school is to have a very talented group of staff who commit many years of their careers to St Mary’s. An example of this is Elizabeth Thompson, who is retiring after 34 years of service in the PE Department and leader of the CAA programme. We will also be saying goodbye to Mark Cleaver, Head of Economics, Kimberley Pallot, Head of Art, and Joe Wood, Head of Science. We also say farewell to Deputy Housemistress, Sophia Chichester, Drama Teacher, Holly Darling, and French Teacher, Cecile Rinjonneau. Between them, they have made a huge contribution to the school and to the lives of many girls over the years and we thank them all for their hard work and dedication and wish them well as they move on to retirement, promotion, and new opportunities.

Sincere gratitude was expressed to the St Mary’s community – all the parents, grandparents and friends of the school for their support, in particular to the Parents’ Guild; they are a pro-active group who have again this year worked hard on behalf of parents and in support of our pupils – so thank you for all that you do to foster community spirit.

Dr Kirk also expressed sincere gratitude to the Governors of the school and the Calne Foundation Trustees who do so much to support the school. The demands of these volunteer roles continue to grow and the responsibilities they undertake are not to be underestimated. As it is also the 150th year of the school's founding, she stated it was also a fitting moment to remember the remarkable Founders of the school who, in 1873, revolutionised girls' education. She felt sure that 'our Founders would be delighted with the community that has grown here from the seeds they planted'.

Dr Kirk’s focus then turned to the UVI Leavers, who have been a year group that has worked so hard they even had 'Library Wars - racing to beat the UV to secure the most coveted study spots in the Library!'  As a year group they have been described as 'optimistic and enthusiastic', but also 'chatty and easily distractable'; however, one thing is for certain, they love an opportunity for fancy dress and really have thrown themselves into school life. 

Dr Kirk shared some humorous anecdotes and memories, followed by a Vote of Thanks to an outstanding Prefect Team, under the leadership of Sienna as Head Girl, ably supported by her Deputies, Anna and Hannah.

She praised the 2023 Leavers on their optimism and explained how important it is 'to maintain that sense of optimism as you move into the next phases of your lives. Melinda Gates, in her book 'The Moment of Lift', describes optimism in this way: 'Optimism isn't a belief that things will automatically get better; it is a conviction that we can make things better'.

Dr Kirk then shared that she was recently introduced to the old BBC TV programme, Tomorrow's World, and appealed to the Leavers, as the creators of 'tomorrow's world' to 'absolutely play your part in solving the challenges that face us as a society and as a planet; make your contributions in a way that was just not possible for so many previous generations of women. But also face the future with positivity and retain the optimism that you have shown us in your time with us.'

She finished her Address by urging the UVI to 'stay positive!' and closed with a quote by author C.S. Lewis, ‘There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind’. Dr Kirk then invited our Guest Speaker for the Prizegiving, Roya Nikkah, to the podium.

Roya delivered an inspirational speech, remarking that every time she visits the school she is always 'so impressed with how punchy and poised the young women are' here at St Mary's. She reflected on her 12 years of covering the royal beat and, before that, as an arts correspondent and general reporter. She has been lucky to travel the world with her job, but her passion for literature, language and storytelling began here at Calne, with her first published work being in the school magazine.

She expressed her gratitude to the exceptional teachers at St Mary's who gave her extraordinary encouragement - Mrs Footman, Mrs Peace, Mrs Fogg, and Mrs Sara-Jane Socha. 'Just as your friendships from Calne will stay with you for life, so too will the incredible education you have all been lucky enough to have here'.

Roya's final words to the Leavers were: 'I hope you will all be able to spread your wings and find fascinating, fulfilling adventures to pursue. I know you will'.

As a special surprise, in celebration of the school's 150th anniversary, Roya then invited her former teacher, Mrs Sara-Jane Socha, former Governor and St Mary's parent, Mr Simon Knight, and more recent alumnae, Miss Emilia Flack, to the stage to interview and ask what St Mary's has meant to them. Some of the thoughtful insights they shared included 'the school is about opportunity', 'it is the people who make the place', 'St Mary's gave me a belief in myself' ' St Mary's lets girls shine' and 'Calne Girls Connect - they are friends for life'.

Dr Kirk thanked Roya for sharing her perspective of St Mary's in such a unique way and thanked Emilia, Sara-Jane and Simon for joining us on this special day.

The much-anticipated Prizegiving followed Roya’s speech and interview, with the awards being announced by Deputy Head Academic, Mr Michael Smyth. Well done to all of the girls, and to Poore Company who were awarded the highly coveted Company Cup!

Head Girl, Sienna, then gave an amusing Vote of Thanks. She remarked upon the sense of community and enthusiasm for fun within the UVI (singing Mr Brightside at socials!) and recounted some of the year group’s pranks and mishaps with pasta and microwaves. She also gave a heartfelt thanks to the Staff and Teachers for their support through the Sixth Form. Sienna felt the UVI had made the most amazing friendships that will last a lifetime and ended with a quote, which reflected the spirit of the year group: ‘Work Hard, Play Harder!’

Dr Kirk wrapped up the proceedings in the Prizegiving marquee sharing with all good wishes for a restful and happy summer holiday, and, as is traditional, the Leavers left the Main Marquee to the music of The Great Escape! Everybody then enjoyed a delicious afternoon tea in the Dining Hall, rounding off a wonderful day.

Good wishes to the Class of 2023 with the next stage of your journey, and the very best of luck for your A Level results in August!

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